Feelings come and feelings go I never know what they’ll be Silly or angry, happy or sad They’re all a part of me…”
M&B spoke about emotional development to Swati Popat, author of the parenting bestseller and
president of Podar Education Network. Read on to discover how a little awareness can go a long
way in making your baby more loving and expressive
Babies have always learnt about emotions through human interaction, but recent research says that emotions can also be instinctive. A theory called the Bronfenbrenner’s Theory adds that the environmental experiences of babies, as they grow, determines their social and emotional development. Even before the first social smile appears around the age of two or three months, babies can feel curiosity, happiness or distress that they convey through facial expressions and body language.
Swati Popat, M&B’s early childhood expert, says that children start emoting from the time of birth. She explains that when a newborn is held in the crook of his mother’s arm, he can look into her face and respond to the sight. Explaining the ways in which a baby expresses his feelings, Swati borrows from Italian early education specialist Loris Malaguzzy’s poem ‘The Hundred Languages of Children’ that says that every child expresses himself through a hundred languages but the adult world steals away 99 of them.
Instinct and imitation
According to Swati, among the various ways in which a baby shows his emotions, some are based on pure instinct. This means that the body has developed specific mechanisms of expressing emotions. She explains that babies don’t have to learn to cry when they are hungry, give a shrill cry when they don’t get what they want or whimper when they are in pain or in need of attention. These are reactions thatcome naturally from birth. As they grow into the third and fourth month, says Swati, babies start imitating or copying. So when your little one smiles and sees a smile in return, a foundation of learning gets created. The baby’s interaction becomes more social and he learns that there is a special way of responding to a particular expression. Watching a display of emotions is essential for the child to understand how to be in sync with his surroundings. Imitation and recognition play an important role when it comes to expressing emotions, she points out. The baby does not get the right cues when he grows up being surrounded by very serious individuals who don’t smile or laugh. Swati maintains that if parents don’t baby talk or express openly, the child will not get the first lessons in socialisation and grow up to be introvert and inexpressive.
The first smiles of your baby are extremely important according to Swati because a smile happens without any conscious move. For a baby, a smile begins as a muscular movement but if it is reciprocated with a smile from the parent, then he learns that this movement gets the same response. And in this way the first social interaction with the display of positive emotion happens. At this stage, positive emotions are essential for brain and memory development and so it is important to reinforce positive emotions in the baby.